I once met a man at a party who told me his name was Miami Dolphin. He showed me his Driver’s License and everything. This was 2007/8ish before everyone had the wherewithal to take pictures and film everything so it mostly exists as a memory that I’m starting to disbelieve myself, though I tell the story all the time as a replacement for having physical evidence of it. If you find him please tell him sadtimes still thinks of him
“Miami Dolphin”! Imagine it. Did Miami Dolphin give himself this name? Or did his mother, flushed and beatific in the glow of childbirth, look up with glistening eyes from her swaddled newborn and say to the nurses, “His name… is Miami Dolphin”? The latter is too much for me to consider without pain. One of the first things such a baby would ever have known about himself, about his one and only human lifetime, is that an NFL team is indivisible from his identity in the eyes of his parents. (I spent much of my two-week vacation from this website reading Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, so forgive me if my mind runs immediately to the question of how a person’s life and place in the world can be shaped by their earliest inherited knowledge. Keep Miami Dolphin away from the sandtrout!)
Because our brains are mud, the Defector staff used Miami Dolphin as a prompt to discuss how various sports team’s names would fare as names for actual individual humans. I think we can all agree that, apart from its associations with the absolute most forgettable of professional basketball teams and most appalling of American cities, Orlando Magic would be a pretty rad name to have—far better as a person’s name than as that of a basketball franchise. It would also be pretty cool to be able to introduce yourself as “Maverick. Dallas Maverick.” You might think that all of the Dallas teams would benefit from Dallas being a relatively decent or at least credible name, as these things go—certainly more than Pittsburgh!—but Dallas Cowboy and Dallas Star are spectacularly bleak. Arizona Coyote is both plausible and very cool. Charlotte Hornet, by contrast, is very plausible but boring.
Certain sports team names—Seattle Mariner, Calgary Flame—sound like they could fit right into classic bodice-ripper paperback novels; if you would not trust Houston Rocket or Cincinnati Red with your wallet, you could at least imagine reading them on a list of people who got gut-shot while trying to hijack a steamboat in 1888 and died of sepsis in a flophouse a week later. That has a certain outlaw charm. (The steamboat would be owned by copper magnate Baltimore Oriole IV.)
K.C. Chief and K.C. Royal are both fine, right up until you have to tell somebody what the letters stand for. There is no universe in which Tampa Bay Ray is not a gambling tout with a Saturday morning betting lines show. But there probably are several universes in which Tampa Bay Ray is exactly that.
On the other hand, there is no coming back from having the name Chicago White Sock. You would go by C.W. Sock, which by its feeble grasp at dignity is made all the more shameful. Imagine looking someone in the eye and saying, “Please, my father is Mr. Team. Call me Washington Football.” There is a 200-percent chance that Jacksonville Jaguar will be the captain of a Northern Virginia lacrosse team. Vegas Golden Knight has pupils the size of frisbees and is the true-believer second-in-command of an apocalyptic sex cult.
If my name was San Antonio Spur, I would introduce myself quickly as San Spur and allow everyone to just assume my name was Sam. Buffalo Sabre actually kicks ass. No fate could possibly be worse than to be named Washington Wizard.